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Crime News Dateline

California Mom Found Dead With Her Throat Slashed After Failing To Show Up To Family Dinner

Katherine "Kit" Mordick had been on the precipice of a new life when the mom of two was found dead in her California home in 1983. Who could have wanted her dead?

By Jill Sederstrom

It had seemed like Katherine “Kit” Mordick’s very own happily ever after.

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Kit met her future husband, Gregory Mordick, at California’s Disneyland, where they both worked at the “It’s A Small World" attraction.

The gentle, quiet guy — who taled of his college degree and time serving in Vietnam — liked to sew and cook and was a perfect complement to her vibrant and sunny personality.

“It seemed like a fairy tale,” her sister Donna said of the pair’s 1977 nuptials. “She was really happy.”

The couple settled down and had two daughters, but unlike fairy tales, the romance wouldn’t last.

A few years into the marriage, Kit started working as a food stylist, the person who is tasked with setting up food to be photographed for ads and magazines.

The move didn’t just bring her closer to her dream career — it also brought her closer to a photographer she often worked with named Henry. The resulting affair was enough to derail her marriage, and by late 1982, Kit and Gregory were in the midst of a divorce, as Kit happily pursued the new romance.

The new year signaled new possibilities, but on Jan. 23, 1983, Kit was found by her brother Joe O’Connell and new love interest, Henry, in her Anaheim Hills home with her throat slit.

It would be decades before the case would ever be solved.

Henry and O’Connell had gone to check on Kit after she failed to show up for a family dinner the night before. They arrived to find no lights on in the house but noticed that Kit’s car was still parked in the garage. That’s when Henry discovered a back door unlocked and let himself into the home to make the gruesome discovery.

“I saw her lying there, it was just blood everywhere,” O’Connell told "Dateline" correspondent Keith Morrison. “She was dead.”

The attack had been so violent that Anaheim Police Detective Boyd Underwood — who took on the case decades later — described her head as being “almost gone.” Her throat had been slashed and she was found laying nude from the waist down.

“We were both crying. Both of us, out of control,” Joe recalled.

It looked as though the home may have been ransacked. Speakers were ripped from the walls, a TV lay near the front door, and a plant had been knocked over, but there were no signs of forced entry and investigators thought that the scene looked like it had been staged.

Immediately, police looked at the men who were closest to Kit, interviewing both Henry and Gregory.

Police had discovered an unopened letter Kit had written to Gregory on a table inside the home.

“I’m ready to go forward,” she had written. “I don’t want to be disgruntled or angry. I want you to know I forgive you for everything and ask your forgiveness for the very deep pain I put you through.”

Gregory said the last time he saw his estranged wife was that Saturday when he had gone to her house to pick up the couple’s daughters for the weekend.

“[I] got to the house about 10 a.m. in the morning to pick them up for a birthday party,” he told “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered.”

Gregory said he chatted with Kit, loaded his two girls into the car, and then made several trips to load their bags and presents for the party into the vehicle.

As for that letter, Gregory told “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered” he believed that Kit may have been apologizing for starting her food photography career without him, although the couple had always talked about working together to start the business.

Kit’s sister Donna had another possible explanation, however. After the affair, Kit had apparently read Gregory’s diaries and discovered that many of the details she thought she knew about her husband — like his college degree and service in Vietnam — had actually been a lie. There was also a list of women’s names, although it wasn’t clear whether it was a list of women he had slept with or just a list of women he had admired, as Gregory had insisted.

“Everything she knew about him was a lie,” Donna said.

The betrayal was enough to permanently sever the relationship, according to Donna.

“All of my deceptions have come to light,” Gregory would write in his diary in September 1982.

Gregory told Morrison he had lied because he “didn’t fit in at Disneyland very well” and was seen as an unusual guy for his hobbies like sewing.

“So, I decided to embellish my life a little bit and all of a sudden people liked me,” he said.

Regardless of his lies about his past, on the day Kit was killed, witnesses did report seeing him at the birthday party that afternoon, acting happy and helpful.

An autopsy also determined that Kit had been killed Saturday Jan. 22, 1983 during the “P.M.” hours, when Gregory was already at the party.

Yet, Gregory was still living under a cloud of suspicion and decided to leave California, with his two girls in tow, to start a new life in Spokane, Washington, where he opened his own photography studio.

Henry had allegedly been two hours away in San Diego the day of the murder and was ruled out as a result of the alibi.

For decades, Kit’s case remained unsolved until Underwood, who had taken a role within the Anaheim Police department investigating cold cases after his official retirement, took a fresh look at the case.

After looking at the crime scene photos, he discovered that the evidence had never been tested for DNA and had all the evidence in the case re-tested. Investigators found Gregory’s DNA on the rear sliding glass door, closet door knob, plastic bag inside the closet, and powder room sink of the home.

“The bathroom sink had her blood and his DNA mixed. On the sliding door, there was a mixture of her blood and his blood,” Underwood said. “You start getting more convinced that he was part of that crime scene.”

Gregory was arrested for first-degree murder in 2008. Prosecutors argued that Gregory had killed Kit because he didn’t want to lose time with his daughters and pointed to diary entries where Gregory had written how painful it would be to be separated from them.

He had also confessed in the journals there had been violence between the couple and admitted that he  had hit Kit during their anger-fueled breakup, the last incident occurring just weeks before her death, although he would insist she had always started the physical confrontations first.

Gregory’s defense team tried to shift blame to Henry, the other man who had been in Kit’s life all those years ago, calling a witness who remembered that Kit had been unhappy with the relationship. They also pointed to how quickly Henry moved on with Kit’s sister Donna, marrying her just a year after the murder.

They also highlighted problems with the storage of evidence. At some point, a vial of blood taken from Gregory had broken open and seeped onto other evidence packaging.

They also told jurors that no blood had ever been found on Gregory’s clothes and called a witness who described him as acting completely normal at that birthday party that afternoon.

The first trial resulted in a hung jury, but during the second trial Gregory was convicted of first-degree murder.

Gregory was sentenced to 25 years to life, although he continues to insist that he is innocent.